The Importance of Teaching Culture in the Foreign Language Classroom

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The Importance Of Teaching Culture In The Foreign Language Classroom
Radical Pedagogy (2001)
ISSN: 1524-6345
The Importance Of Teaching Culture In The Foreign Language Classroom
Language And Culture: What IS Culture And Why Should IT BE Taught?
In this section, we will briefly examine the relationship between language and culture and see why the teaching of culture should constitute an integral part of the English language curriculum. To begin with, language is a social institution, both shaping and shaped by society at large, or in particular the ‘cultural niches’ (Eleanor Armour-Thomas & Sharon-ann Gopaul-McNicol, 1998) in which it plays an important role. Thus, if our premise is that language is, or should be, understood as
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Fairly recently, many ethnographers such as Buttjes (1990), Ochs & Schieffelin (1984), Poyatos, (1985), and Peters & Boggs, (1986) have attempted to show that ‘language and culture are from the start inseparably connected’ (Buttjes, 1990: 55, cited in Lessard-Clouston, 1997). More specifically, he summarizes the reasons why this should be the case: language acquisition does not follow a universal sequence, but differs across cultures; the process of becoming a competent member of society is realized through exchanges of language in particular social situations; 1. every society orchestrates the ways in which children participate in 2. particular situations, and this, in turn, affects the form, the function and 3. the content of children’s utterances; 4. caregivers’ primary concern is not with grammatical input, but with the 5. transmission of sociocultural knowledge; 6. the native learner, in addition to language, acquires also the 7. paralinguistic patterns and the kinesics of his or her culture.
The implications of Buttjes’ findings for the teaching of culture are evident. Language teaching is culture teaching and teachers do their students a great disservice in placing emphasis on the former, to the detriment of the latter. As Buttjes (1990: 55-56) notes, ‘language teachers need to go beyond monitoring linguistic production in the classroom and become aware of the complex and numerous

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